Reflection #2: Kindness in Angela’s Ashes

Aesop once said “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” I’ve found this statement to be proven true throughout Angela’s Ashes, in which simple acts of kindness and charity save lives of the McCourt family during a time when chances of survival were bleak.

In school, we often discuss the Great Depression as if it only occurred in our country, but it affected countless families all over the world, bringing out the best and worst in people. For many, including Frank McCourt’s father, the worst was alcoholism. It was hard enough to find a job during the Depression, but it was even more difficult to keep one when you wouldn’t show up, or were hungover while working. As a result, his family and a multitude of others had no other choice but to swallow their pride by signing up for the dole and accepting charity from the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The McCourts were just able to make ends meet with this financial assistance, but it wasn’t enough to save the lives of their twins, Oliver and Eugene.

After the boys’ deaths, the McCourts were met with more benevolence accompanied by the phrase “sorry for your troubles”, a phrase that broke my heart to read as they heard it way too much. Their doctor came and gave them a free prescription to save them from dying of pneumonia, but it couldn’t cure the heartache of McCourt’s mother, so the family relocated to another home where they wouldn’t be haunted by the memories of the twins. As the remaining two McCourt children went to school, they encountered bullies and strict teachers, yet the teachers had a way of protecting the children from peer abuse and getting them to brave their embarrassment about their financial situation.

When Christmas time approached, the McCourt children weren’t the only members of their family to be embarrassed. Their parents, especially their mother, were ashamed that they could only afford a pig’s head for dinner; However, the butcher saw the mother struggling with her two little boys and gave her breakfast sausages, free of charge, out of the goodness of his heart. The three McCourts went home with arms fuller than expected, only to discover that they had nothing to cook the meat with, so the boys were sent back out to find some coal. Yet again, the McCourts were graced with the goodwill of others as a bartender donated as much coal as they could carry.

Throughout this entire section of Angela’s Ashes, I witnessed so many acts of kindness and compassion within the McCourt’s community that I realized that I agree with Aesop: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” One may never know just how much a kind word or good deed meant to someone, and it could make all the difference in their life.

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